Control your volatile portfolio of projects with resource planning tools

Managing a portfolio of projects with a limited pool of resources is no easy ride. Just when all looks to be in balance a project change comes along creating an unacceptable resource bottleneck. Having too few staff can jeopardize committed dates and risk disappointing your clients, but too many hanging around ‘just in case’  will dramatically lower resource utilization. This is where resource planning tools, such as Innate, earn their keep.

Maintaining the right balance carries rich rewards; just how large was shown in 2014 by the UK Association of Consulting Engineers member survey. This revealed that a 2% increase in billable hours, i.e. utilization, would improve their members profits by 25%, on average.

So, maintaining high levels of resource utilization has become a key goal and keeping the skills demand in balance with capacity is crucial. This may be reasonably straightforward where the projects are small in number and relatively large, with each having mainly dedicated teams, but the challenge escalates exponentially as the number of projects increase and their size diminishes. When individuals have short term tasks spanning several projects, their work plans can be very volatile and maintaining high utilization levels becomes a significant problem.

Most multi-project businesses are organized as a matrix, with project managers reliant on team leaders for allocating suitable staff. The greater the project volatility, he more unstable their plans will be, so that re-planning becomes a regular requirement. Traditionally, project managers must seek agreement when changing an assigned resource’s work plan, but such constraints become too unwieldy in a fast-changing environment. The organization needs to become more agile and many are choosing to give project managers permission to re-plan without team leader’s prior agreement, so as to keep on top of the project’s changing demands.

Resource planning tools make this workable by tracking the history of who changed what, by how much and when.  The record of every change is visible, so that the instigators can be held to account.

History of changes made to the Design task in project Barry

This is how resource planning tools can help you keep control of a volatile portfolio of projects

Barry Muir is a Director of Innate Management Systems Ltd. We have been implementing resource management software in a wide variety of professional services organizations for more than 20 years.
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